story: kate carter
photographs: cole barash & scott serfas
S t a y h e a l t h y. . . r i d e m o r e . . .
b e h a p p y. . . k e e p i t s i m p l e
Ballet has Mikhail Baryshnikov of Riga, Latvia.
Figure skating has Scott Hamilton of Bowling Green,
Ohio. Gymnastics has Mary Lou Retton of Fairmont,
W.Va. And snowboarding? It has Jake Blauvelt of
Waterbury Center, Vt.!
Jake, a born and bred Waterbury Center boy, is today
recognized as one of the best snowboarders in the
world. But you won’t find him mastering tricks in the
confines of a terrain park, nor is he a competitive rider,
whose aerials and speed are rated for points. He’s not
an Olympian, going for the gold and the glory.
Instead, you’ll find Jake in the backcountry. He seeks
out the world’s most remote and beautiful snow-cov-
ered terrain and drops into it with the power, grace,
and precision of an eagle stalking its prey.
Most of the time there’s a video camera filming every
move he makes.
Jake Blauvelt (far right) with friends and their fire-breathing
helicopter pilot in South America. (Scott Serfas)
An early morning sunrise outside of Taft Lodge on Mt. Mansfield, followed by first tracks in fresh powder. Tough to beat.
As a snowboarder, Jake is known for his fluid style and natural,
effortless ability. He travels nine months of the year pursuing backcoun-
try challenges and perfect snow. Jake has built a career making web TV
films of awe-inspiring backcountry riding in places such as Japan,
Scandinavia, and British Columbia. The movies are first-rate produc-
tions of Jake embracing Mother Nature’s natural features as he soars
through the air, flips, spins, rotates, and lands so gracefully that even
Baryshnikov would be inspired.
In 2010 Jake made Blauvelt’s Backcountry and in 2011 he produced
Jake Blauvelt Naturally. (Both can be viewed at jakeblauvelt.com.) Jake
Blauvelt Naturally won the Transworld Snowboarding magazine rider
poll and was voted best online video series by Transworld readers. In
September 2013, he was is slated to release another web TV series
Jake first started making videos with Forum Snowboards, where
Forum team riders went into the backcountry together and worked with
photographers. The goal was pure and simple: product promotion.
Before long, Jake became disillusioned.
“I wanted to promote more of myself and what I’m about, which is
riding in the mountains, having fun, and being creative,” says Jake.
“The photographers would edit out the best stuff because they didn’t
know better. I wanted to be able to give more input.” So he teamed up
with sponsors Oakley, Ride, and Adidas, and signed on with Friday
Management, a United Kingdom outfit that manages professional ath-
letes in the action sports sector. Jake has been on the go ever since.
“Friday and I proved to my sponsors that we could produce great
videos. We could make it happen. We got an awesome budget for a
two-year film using a Cineflex camera, which is mounted on a gyro-
scope and suspended from a helicopter. It costs $36,000 a day, so you
have to land the shot the first time,” Jake says.
Most of the time he does.
t was obvious early on that Jake was a natural and gifted athlete.
I He skied, both downhill and cross-country, but when he rode a
snowboard for the first time, it was a truly bonding experience. The
son of Jeff and Marcy Blauvelt, longtime residents of the
Stowe/Waterbury area, Jake signed up to train with Bud Keene and
Jenner Richard at the Mt. Mansfield Ski and Snowboard Club, a move
that laid the groundwork for his successful career.
Keene, who coaches Olympic star Shaun White, remembers Jake’s
earliest years on a snowboard. “From the start Jenner Richard and I
knew that we might have something in Jake. He was strong and commit-
ted, a perfectionist, and he paid attention to our guidance and advice. He
did argue with us sometimes, but we liked and respected that spirit and
self-confidence and were careful not to beat it out of him,” he says.
“Jake has an independent streak that we fed by challenging him and
by holding him accountable. He responded by meeting the challenges
that we set for him, and then asking for more. I was constantly
impressed by that. We were purposefully hard on him, because we
knew that if/when he got into a situation where it really counted, he
would respond as if he had been there before. Obviously Jake has done
that, over and over.”
When Jake thinks about his time at the Mt. Mansfield Ski &
Snowboard Club, it is with fondness and a smile. “I was super lucky
to grow up in Vermont under the watchful eyes of Bud and Jenner,” he
says. “They made us gate train, which I hated. They made us ride on
ice and ride ‘switch’ and develop fundamentals, which I hated. But
that created my foundation. A lot of kids these days don’t learn how
Clockwise from left: Jake’s March 2011 ad campaign to turn. They just go straight in the parks. As it is with anything in
life, you have to get a good foundation. I couldn’t do tricks, but I
for Oakley called “Beyond Reason” outside of
could turn, and everything else came together because I could turn.”
Squamish, British Columbia. (Cole Barash) ••• Jake
Jake discovered snowboarding well before it became mainstream. He
with two canine companions at his childhood
gravitated to it from skateboarding and was quickly comfortable with
home in Waterbury Center. (Glenn Callahan) ••• A
its acrobatic component. His parents installed a trampoline in the back-
2012 Oakley shoot while sledding in the BC back-
yard, and his father built a mini ramp for Jake to practice on. That ramp
country. “It's nice having the sled deck on the back is still used today, by a flock of chickens that roost under one end.
of the truck. You can fit two sleds up top with all Jake dabbled briefly in competitive snowboarding and at age 14 won
your gear underneath and hit the road for the win- a 2004 U.S. Open event. That was nearly a decade ago, when it looked
ter!” Jake says. (Cole Barash) like he was on track to compete in groomed-mountain venues. But then
he went to Lake Tahoe and its surrounding wilderness. “My eyes were
opened to backcountry. It spoke to me. Contests did not,” he says.
“Most riders will find a mound and build a jump,” Jake explains.
“That’s not me. I like to use natural terrain and work with mountains.
When I ride in the backcountry I’m putting my style, creativity, and
emotions on the snow like paint on a blank canvas.”
People often call Jake a “natural athlete.” In fact, Jake Blauvelt and
natural are virtually synonymous. Which might explain the titles of his
web TV series, the latest being, simply, Naturally. No doubt about it,
Jake was born with the right genes. Nature was on his side, as were his
parents. Besides their genetics, they gave him all the nurturing he
needed. Jake is the product of nature and nurture.
Jake’s aunt, Barb Blauvelt, also of Waterbury Center, remembers
Jake coming to her house as a kid to skate with his cousins on their ice
rink. “He’s always been very determined and focused on whatever
sport he’s doing. He would stay out and practice ice hockey long after
the other kids came in, and no one was making him do it,” Barb
explains. “Jake has a combination of gift and grace, and the focus to
put in the time and get to the next level. His parents let him run with it
and helped by supporting his desire. They didn’t steer him. They gave
him a lot of liberty and he never abused it,” she adds.
Following Jake’s success in the USSA contest series, his parents
understood he really could go somewhere with his chosen sport. The first
place he went, with his parent’s blessing, was Mammoth Lakes, Calif. He
was 16. He lived with a family and took home-school correspondence
courses. A year later he got his own apartment in Mammoth and a diplo-
ma from Stowe High. After two years, he went to Lake Tahoe,
where he had his life-changing experience in the backcountry.
Big as the Lake Tahoe area is, it wasn’t big enough for Jake.
He’d heard the mountains in British Columbia, specifically
Whistler, were incredible in size and snow volume. He headed
north, and by chance happened to ride at Mt. Baker Ski Area,
near Bellingham, Wash.
“Baker doesn’t have half pipes and parks. It snows too
much. But they have great backcountry access and a whole
backcountry vibe. People ride in Carhartts. There is a lot of
hype and ‘scene’ at Tahoe, but in my eyes, the real snow-
boarders are at Baker,” Jake says.
Jake, with his high school sweetheart Kristin Hebert of
Stowe, settled in Bellingham, close to Mount Baker and
British Columbia. Jake comes to Waterbury Center often
to visit his parents. This past summer he came to see his physical
therapist/personal trainer, Bill Knowles, director of iSPORT training
center in Killington.
ake dislocated his shoulder last February, on Friday the 13th,
J while filming with Frontier Heli in northern British Columbia.
He returned to Vermont for surgery in April. Dr. Boynton at
Rutland Regional Medical Center performed the labium repair, and
Jake was forced to take some time off. “It was good for me. It gave me
a chance to regroup. Usually when I have down time I start getting
anxious,” Jake says.
He spent the spring and summer regaining his strength, eating well,
doing yoga, and getting fully healthy. He also began to explore the
mental side of his career by studying sport psychology. “Last year was
tough,” he says. “There was a lot of pressure and a lot of money going Clockwise from top left: Adidas ad campaign for the
into the film project. I’m the director and it was all on my shoulders.” Blauvelt Boot, bearing Jake’s name. ••• Jake
Jake is learning how to differentiate between the business and
sending it deep in the Whistler backcountry.
athletic aspect of riding, and how to unite the two. “When I’m filming
(Scott Serfas) ••• An Oakley shoot at Chatter
I need to be calm and collected. Once I make all the calls, of where we
Creek’s cat-skiing lodge outside of Revelstoke,
will drop in and what we will do, then I’m constantly weighing out the
B.C. (Cole Barash) ••• In the Whistler back-
run. But when I actually ride it, it all becomes instinct.”
country. (Scott Serfas) ••• Just another frontside
He is also learning to remain focused on his personal beliefs: stay
healthy, ride more, be happy, keep it simple. “I want to show people to pow slash in the Whistler backcountry, 2012.
be happy in life with whatever you do. You don’t need to be running in (Cole Barash) Inset: Jake’s graced plenty of mag-
the rat race. Follow your passion and do what speaks to you. That’s azine covers, but this is a favorite: The October
why I’m doing backcountry riding. If you do what makes you happy 2011 Transworld Snowboarding cover with
and work hard, things will fall in place. Enjoy the ride along the way. Jake doing a Frontside Cork 720 Japan, in
That is the goal.” I Pemberton, B.C. (Adam Moran)